My conversation with Aaron and my friendly criticism of Mark made me ponder how animals and cultures change. Animals clearly have genes, and Mr. Safranski argues that societies do to. But as these genetic codes change — evolve — in what manner do they evolve?
There are three popular philosophies of evolution. Two are closely associated with “science” — they are the Darwinian and Gouldian models. Another idea, much older, is shared by Creationists when applied to biology and Taoists when applied to society.
- Darwinian Evolution argues that change is constant. As time goes on, you should see the difference between a species and its descendants increase in a linear fashion. While this may accelerate or decelerate at some times, all-in-all change is a slow, gradual process.
- Gouldian Evolution argues that change is rare and violent. “Steady-States,” or “equilibria,” spontaneously arise and last for long periods of time. In an equilibrium, species are very well evolved for their environment. Mutation is harmful, because change messes with an already optimized design.
- Roadster Evolution, or micro-evolution, argues there is a golden mean to which forms tend. A Young-Earth Creationist would say that every species has its own golden mean it stays at, preventing meaningful evolution in any direction. A cultural Taoist would say cultures tend to certain features, and that the further a culture is from this mean the more effort it takes to keep it in its “abnormal” state.
In the graph above, blue represents Darwinian evolution. Change is constant and away from the original form. Second, green is Gouldian. The trend-line is clearly away from the original form, but in (long) stops and (catastrophic) starts. Red is roadster — the biological code is jumping up and down but around a central line — like a drunk, meandering on a road but always on the “road.”
The universe is a complex system made up of complex systems. Some things evolve according to Darwin, other things according to Gould, other things according to the Road. Which things evolve in which way is an important question.